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Book of the Month: Schola Caritatis: Learning the Rhythms of God's Amazing Love

  Starting a new feature for the next several months called Book of the Month.  I will present one of my books and tell you a little of the ...

Monday, September 18, 2023

through the sea

Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though you footprints were not seen.” (Psalm 77:19) 

A very wise man once said that there are actually two exodus stories in the book of Exodus.  The first is God getting Israel out of slavery and the second is God getting slavery out of Israel.  The first happened one day, as God led his people out of Egypt and through the Red Sea.  The second took forty years of wandering in the wilderness.  It seems that the comfortable and familiar, no matter how hard and dysfunctional, don’t loosen their grip on us easily.  The problem is that following Jesus almost never involves what is easy, comfortable, or familiar.

I’m coming to realize more and more that God’s way always leads through the sea—and then through the wilderness—not around it.  It is only by going through the sea, and then the wilderness, that God gets slavery out of us.  It is a long and arduous journey.  The life of slavery runs deep.  Its roots have dug way down into us and it will take some time and effort to pull them out.

“Freedom cannot abide in a heart dominated by desire, in a slave’s heart,” wrote John of the Cross.  “It abides in a liberated heart, in a child’s heart.”  Going through, not around, is how God brings that liberation about.  “There is no way out, only through,” wrote Gerald May.  And he was so right.  There is something about going through, instead of around, that is transforming.      

But the bottom line is that until we love our liberation more than we love our captivity, we will always be slaves.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

rule #1

My heart is not lifted up, O Lord, my eyes are not raised too high.  I do not occupy myself with great matters, or thing too wonderful for me.  But I have stilled and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.  O Israel, put your hope in the Lord, both now and forevermore. (Psalm 131:1-3)

Be still.  Be quiet.  Drop your list. Abandon your agenda.  Stop your anxious spinning.  Listen to God.  Let him guide you.  Wean yourself off of the need to be everything to everyone.  Still and quiet your soul and just see what happens.  This is the first lesson in the school of prayer.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

functional atheism

Functional atheism.  What an interesting phrase.  It is the belief that ultimate responsibility for everything rests with me. Thus, it is not so much atheism in theological terms, but atheism in practical, functional terms.  Which makes it very subtle and hard to spot.  In fact, most functional atheists would probably not consider themselves atheists at all, they just live like they are.  The telltale signs of functional atheism are self-sufficiency, productivity, and performance—three things that are highly valued by the culture around us.  But three things that can also leave us spiritually dead and impoverished. 

Just look at the letter Jesus wrote to the church at Laodicea, for example. (Rev. 3:14-22) These were folks who professed that they both knew Jesus and sought to follow him, and yet the way they lived their lives said something much different.  In fact, Jesus described their love for him as tepid and lukewarm, which made him want to vomit.  There was no passion or zeal for God, only a falsely satisfied sense of self-sufficiency: “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.”  So much so that they had left him out of their daily lives.  Jesus was on the outside looking in; knocking continually on the door of their hearts, longing for deep, vibrant, intimate relationship with them, and yet they left him outside.  Thus, the “believers” at the church of Laodicea were functional atheists.  They said they loved God, but they lived like he didn’t exist.

The admonition Jesus gave them was to stop relying on themselves and their own resources to manage life, to realize their poverty and their helplessness, and to turn to him to give them what they could not possibly provide for themselves: to be rich in spiritual treasure, to be clothed in his holiness and righteousness, and to be healed and made whole.  Only Jesus could give them those things, if only they would be willing to open the door.  The very life of their souls depended on it.

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

the essence of prayer

”One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him is his temple.” (Psalm 27:4)

That’s it.  That’s what prayer is all about.  In fact, that’s what life with God is, ultimately, all about.  In the midst of the chaos and commotion and turmoil of this life, a single-minded focus on God, and simply being with him, is of utmost importance.  It is so easy to get swept away with worry and care about the many things that we get distracted and forget about the one thing—Jesus. 

Henri Nouwen said it this way: “Prayer is entering into the presence of God here and now.  Prayer is the way I which we become present to the moment and listen to God who is with us.  God is always where we are.  God is with us until the end of time.  We have to be here.  We have to listen.  We have to be attentive.  Prayer is the discipline of attentiveness, of being here.
      I really want to ask you to practice prayer as a practice of the presence of God.  You don’t have to say many words.  You don’t have to have deep thoughts.  You don’t have to worry about how to think.  You can just be where you are and say, ‘I love you.  I love you.  I know you love me and I love you.  I don’t have any big things to say.  I don’t have any profound words to express, but I am here and I want you to be with me and I want to be with you.’  It’s that simple.  It is a very simple thing.  Prayer is not complicated.  It is not difficult.”

The true essence of prayer is simply being with God—dwelling, gazing, and seeking.  I don’t know why we make it so complicated.

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

awakened by love

“The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have aid is quite true.” (John 4:18)

Contrary to popular opinion, Jesus is not trying to shame, but to awaken.  Awakening, however, is not a tidy process.  In fact, it can be pretty messy.  For in order to truly awaken someone, they must first be made aware of how they have been lulled to sleep.  Their needy patterns and strategies must be exposed, recognized, and acknowledged before true awakening can take place.

But who in their right mind wants to be exposed?  Only someone who realizes deep inside that their lives have taken a terribly wrong turn.  Only someone who yearns and longs and hopes for a life that’s better than the one they are living.  Only someone who is longing to experience a love that is deeper and wider and longer and higher than any love they have yet to experience. 

That’s where we have to trust the heart of Jesus, that his intent is love and never shame.  That he alone can love us with the depth and the passion and the intimacy we most deeply long for.  That when he exposes us it is with the utmost gentleness and kindness and compassion, for it is his invitation to name what is wrong within us and return to what is good and true. 

The heart of Jesus is to expose and awaken, to name and invite.  Because, ultimately, he doesn’t want us to settle for less than the life and the love he created us for.  He doesn’t want us to live at the mercy of others.  He doesn’t want us to be dependent on the attention and affection of those around us, when it is only he who can give us the attention and affection we most deeply need.  Helping us to realize that, and helping us to stop being the attention and affection whores that we are, is what spiritual awakening is really all about.  It certainly was for the woman at the well. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

he still will

 "The cause why we are so troubled with these sins is because of our ignorance of love.  To this knowledge we are most blind, for some of us believe that God is all power and able to do all and that He is all wisdom and knows how to do all.  But that He is all love and will do all, there we stop.  This ignorance is that which most hinders God's lovers.  There persists a fear that hinders us because of paying attention to ourselves and the sins we have done in the past.  We do not know how to despise the sin of self-hatred, as we do other sins which we recognize." ~Julian of Norwich

This quote is still stirring in my heart and has been for the past month or so.  I guess that's because, if I'm really honest, I'm one of those she is talking about.  I believe that God is able to do all things, but do I really believe that he will?  It reminds me of the leper who came to Jesus in Luke 5:12-13: "If you are willing, you can make me clean."  I feel that way a lot.  I know God can, but will he?

God answers that question for the leper, and all the rest of us doubters, when he says, "I am willing.  Be clean!"  God is always willing.  Maybe not always willing to give us exactly what we want, but always willing to touch us in the way we most deeply need to be touched.  He loves us too much not to.

I'm not sure what life is like for you and yours these days (In fact, I would love to hear about it).  I'm not sure what you are carrying around within you.  I'm not sure what kind of burdens are weighing you down.  I'm not sure what prayers you have been praying, knowing that God can, but not really believing that he will.  But I want to encourage you to know that HE WILL.  Even today, HE WILL touch you in the way you most deeply need to be touched.  

Hear his words over you today: "I am willing.  Be clean!"

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

he will

“The cause why we are so troubled with these sins is because of our ignorance of love.  To this knowledge we are most blind, for some of us believe that God is all powerful and able to do all, and that He is all wisdom and knows how to do all.  But that He is all love and will do all, there we stop.  This ignorance is that which most hinders God’s lovers.  There persists a fear that hinders us because of paying attention to ourselves and the sins we have done in the past.  We do not know how to despise the sin of self-hatred, as we do other sins which we recognize.” ~Julian of Norwich

Sunday, July 9, 2023

the revelation of hiddenness

“This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee.  He thus revealed his glory. . ..” (John 2:11)  

It should come as no surprise to us that the first miracle of Jesus was performed at the wedding of a friend and very few people even knew about it.  I mean, who does that?  Jesus, that’s who.

What are we to do with a God who reveals his glory in hiddenness and anonymity, except to seek to become more like him?

Friday, June 30, 2023

crossing over

the leap from fear to gratitude
changes everything about you
instead of doubt and demand
or anger and frustration
you are filled with joy
and thanksgiving
you see everything differently
suddenly all of life is a gift
to be received rather than
a possession to be defended

Sunday, June 25, 2023

the great reversal

In a world that says increase
Jesus says decrease
In a world that says first
Jesus says last
In a world that says up
Jesus says down
In a world that says rule
Jesus says serve
In a world that says fill
Jesus says empty
In a world that says earn
Jesus says grace
In a world that says ascend
Jesus says descend

Who will we listen to?

Friday, June 9, 2023

deep healing

Jesus always sees beyond the presenting problem to the core.  He doesn’t just want to touch the surface, but the deeper places.  Touching those deep places within us is the only way we can experience real healing and wholeness.

Thus, Jesus knew that the problem with the paralytic (Mark 2:1-12) wasn’t merely his legs, it was so much more than that.  The real problem was his heart, so healing just his legs would stop far short of the healing that was most desperately needed.  If Jesus healed the paralyzed man's legs, without healing his heart, the man would still not be whole.

Maybe you have prayed for years for God’s intervention in some area of your life, and yet, for the most part, those prayers have seemingly gone unanswered.  That area of your life remains unchanged.  Here’s a thought: maybe it’s because you are praying for the wrong thing.  Maybe you too, are praying for your legs, when there is a much deeper issue that must be addressed.  God wants to get his hands on that place.  He wants to heal you at your deepest levels, but in order to do that he needs you to recognize exactly what the problem is.  Are you willing to go there with him?

Heal us, O God, in a deep and beautiful way.  For it is healing that we need and only you can offer it.  Heal our hearts, heal our lives, and heal our world.  Our wounds are the source of most of our conflicts and issues and dysfunctions, so touch us with your healing hands of love and make us alive and whole and free.  Amen.

Saturday, May 27, 2023

were and will be

“As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their net into the lake, for they were fishermen.  ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’  At once they left their nets and followed him.”

They were fishermen, but they will be fishers of men.  God was calling them to leave behind what they were, in order to become who they really are.  It was a pretty abrupt departure from the life they had known and grown comfortable with.  Now they were being asked to move from proficiency to mystery.  They would have to leave behind a life and an identity they had grown accustomed to and familiar with, in order to step out into the great unknown.

But isn’t that always what life with Jesus is like?  Leaving behind the comfortable and familiar, in order to embrace a life of risky dependence.  Trading autonomy for obedience and control for surrender.  Saying goodbye to comfort and proficiency, since they cause us to stop short of the life God is beckoning toward, and saying an unreserved yes to Jesus, regardless of what that might mean. 

We might be tempted to try to convince ourselves that this calling was only for them, but it’s not.  It is for us as well.  These brave souls were willing to leave everything behind—their boats, their nets, and even their own father—in order to follow the call of Jesus.  Are we?

Friday, May 12, 2023

pure in heart

“Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God.” (Mt. 5:8)

Of all the beatitudes, this one seems the most inaccessible.  I mean, I know my own heart and how impure it really is.  Thus, purity of heart is only possible if God provides it; we can’t do it ourselves.  We are totally dependent on him.

A careful study of the word, however, might give us a hint as to how this takes place.  It’s what the saints called purgation.  The word pure, in the Greek, is katharos, which is an adjective meaning clean.  It is the word also used in John 15:3 to describe the results of pruning (kathairō), the verb associated with katharos.  Kathairō literally means to purge.  It is the process by which we are emptied, in order to be filled.  Thus, if we ever want to be filled with God’s purity, we must first allow the Spirit of God to purge us of our impurities.  In the words of a wise saint, “How can God possibly fill you if you are already full of yourself?  It’s like trying to pour into an already full cup.  You must first empty the cup.” 

So, instead of just trying to add purity to our hearts and lives, which is impossible for us to achieve on our own anyway, we should probably start (through the power of the Spirit) by emptying ourselves of all that is not God.  Then, and only then, can he fill us with himself, and his purity.  Then we will, indeed, be blessed.

In the words of Susan Annette Muto, “When we live the Beatitudes in and with the Lord, we become liberated persons in the fullest sense.  We follow the path of purgation until, with Jesus, we are filled with the peace of surrender to the Father and led by his Spirit to new depths of intimacy with the Indwelling Trinity.”


Closing Prayer: Purge me, Lord Jesus, of all that is not you, so that you can fill me with your life, your love, and your purity.

Thursday, May 11, 2023


“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” (Mt. 5:7)

So, if the merciful are blessed, how in the world do we become merciful?  It seems to me that it’s impossible to be merciful without first realizing how desperately we need mercy ourselves.  If we don’t think we need mercy, we probably aren’t going to be able to extend mercy.  But if we realize the depths of our own need, and are extended mercy ourselves, it makes it much more likely we will respond in kind.  I mean, how could one who has been granted mercy, withhold that mercy from others, right?  Receiving mercy changes us into merciful people.  So the way to become merciful is to bask in the mercy of God.

But we can only do that, it seems, by coming face to face with our own neediness and desperation.  As much as we would like for it not to, desperation plays a definite role in the equation.  Desperation leads to dependence, dependence leads to humility, and humility, in turn, leads to mercy.  Thus, increasing our desperation, increases our capacity to be merciful.  Once we have received mercy ourselves, it does something deep inside—it makes us merciful people. And blessed.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

hungry and thirsty for righteousness

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Mt. 5:6)

What does it mean to hunger and thirst for righteousness?  The word for righteousness, in the Greek, is dikaiosynē.  It means the state of him who is as he ought to be.  Thus, to hunger and thirst for righteousness means to yearn for and long for and work for all things, people, and relationships to be as God intended them to be. 

Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are agents of life and hope and change in this world.  They are the ones who are called and empowered to bring the hope and the healing and the wholeness of God into this dark and broken world.  They are the ones who are constantly working to help roll back the effects of the fall, by giving people a taste of the kingdom of God in the here and now.  They are ones who are called to live and to love as God intended.

Tuesday, May 9, 2023


“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. (Mt. 5:5:5)

Meek is not a word that’s used much these days.  And if it is, it is almost never used in a positive way.  Culturally speaking, being meek is seen as being a pushover, being weak, being spineless.  Which, in all honesty, is the exact opposite of what meekness is really all about. 

Meekness is about being humbly submissive, which is probably part of the problem.  Nobody wants to be submissive to anyone these days, particularly to God.  As a wise saint once said: “Meekness toward God is a disposition of spirit in which we accept his dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting.”  Thus, being submissive takes strength and courage and patience and wisdom and fortitude.  You have to have tons of backbone to be submissive; it is not easy.

Jesus knew that.  That’s why he said that the meek are blessed, because the meek are wise enough and strong enough and courageous enough to submit their plans and their agendas and their wills to the will of God—the one who made them.  The meek recognize the created order and the magnificence of the One who created them.  Their lives are about glorifying God, not about glorifying, or gratifying, themselves.

When we submit to God, we submit to the Spirit, instead of trying to be the Spirit.  We stop managing and controlling and hijacking and manufacturing and steering and directing, and we start listening and waiting and watching and praying and paying attention.  We stop trying to constantly grab the wheel and simply trust God instead.  We let God lead.  For the price of submitting is indeed high, but the price of non-submitting is higher still—our soul.

Sunday, May 7, 2023

blessed are

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt. 5:3) 

The eyes of Jesus see what we cannot.  They see beneath the surface of things, to the very depths.  They see past the temporal, to the eternal.  They see the value in things and situations that we do not typically see as desirable.  That’s because Jesus is more concerned with our character than he is with our circumstances.

That’s why he can say that the poor in spirit are “blessed.”  In fact, theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  The poor in spirit are the last, the lowest, and the least.  They are the small, the hidden, and the quiet. The poor in spirit are the ones who are most open to God, because they need him so desperately.  It is the lowly and the meek and the humble and the needy and the inadequate whose hearts are most receptive to God, not the proud and the arrogant and the powerful and the self-sufficient.  It is in weakness that God’s strength comes shining through.  Poverty of spirit is the very best soil in which to grow the most beautiful things of God.

At times we are tempted to ask, “Where is God in the midst of loneliness and brokenness and marginalization?  Where is God in struggle and turmoil and weakness?  Where is God in disruption and disorientation and disturbance?”  But I think the better question is: “Where is God in success and attention and popularity?  Where is God in pride and adequacy and competence?  Which environment grows the better fruit of the Spirit within us?  Which makes us more loving and grateful and compassionate?  Which makes us more open and excited and receptive to receiving the kingdom of heaven?"

So, contrary to popular opinion, maybe the poor in spirit really are blessed after all.

Friday, May 5, 2023

reverent submission

“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” (Hebrews 5:7)

Reverent submission involves seeing God for who he truly is and seeing ourselves for who we truly are.  It involves a deep recognition of his great power and our inherent powerlessness, of his immeasurable strength and immeasurable our weakness, of his supreme adequacy and our feeble inadequacy.  It is, in fact, an acknowledgement of our desperate dependence on him.

Reverent submission brings about a willingness to surrender our plans and our will and our way, in deference to his.  It makes us open to whatever God is doing, rather than us trying to determine what God is doing: no manufacturing, no steering, no managing, no hijacking, no controlling. 

Reverent submission is about obedience instead of autonomy.  It calls us to wait and to listen and to pray.  It asks us to watch and to wait and to pay attention.  It asks us to respond to God’s initiative, rather than always taking our own.

Help us, Lord Jesus, to be more and more like you.  Help us to always act in reverent submission, rather than in prideful arrogance.

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

change me

O Lord, how I long to be different.  How I long to turn from my twisted and dysfunctional patterns and habits, in order to be more whole and holy.  I long to be set free from my own self-consumed ways of being and seeing, and to become more and more like you.  I long to be more loving instead of self-centered, I long to be more compassionate rather than competitive, and I long to care more about your will and your work than I do about my own.  

Continue, O God, to transform my heart.  Grow your grace in me and let it flow freely and effortlessly from my heart and life.  Change me from deep within. Give me more peace and less frustration.  Make me more rooted and less reactive.  Help me to be more caring and less annoyed.  

O Jesus, fill me so full of your love that there will be no room in me for anything else.

Monday, April 24, 2023


“The time has come.  The kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15) 

Repentance always involves a two-part movement: a turning away and a turning toward.  Turning away from autonomy and turning toward obedience, turning away from control and turning toward surrender, turning away from independence and turning toward dependence.  Ultimately, repentance is about turning away from my kingdom and turning toward God’s.

Saturday, April 22, 2023

a place of abundance

“You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.” (Psalm 66:12)

To reach the land of abundance, it seems, we must go through the fire and the water.  There is no way around it.  To get to the place called resurrection, we must go through the doorway of death.  In the words of C. S. Lewis, “Only that which has died will be resurrected.”  So, struggle is a prerequisite for growth and death is the prerequisite for resurrection.

That being the case, it seems like we would stop getting so offended and hurt and surprised when we have to go through hard things.  God told us that it would be this way.  It was that way for Jesus, so why would we expect it to be any different for us?  Why should we get an exemption?  Hard things should just be a sign to us that we are on the right path, and the final destination is oh so good.

Tuesday, April 18, 2023


There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. (Mt. 28:2)

Sometimes it takes an earthquake to roll away the stone.  Sometimes we must be disrupted before we can be resurrected.  Sometimes God has to shake us up in order to set us free.

Friday, April 14, 2023

on the road

They couldn’t understand it on their own, nor could they explain it. (Luke 24:15-32)   They were at a loss to try and figure it all out, teeming with doubts and fears and uncertainties.  Having so many more questions than answers.  How were they supposed to make sense of what had happened over the last few days, much less the last few years?  And yet there they were, walking along the road, lost in a mass of chaos and grief and confusion. 

That is, until he showed up.  He seemingly came out of nowhere, joining them on their journey, just walking alongside them.  He joined in the conversation, not hijacking it, but asking questions and letting them talk about what was on their minds and hearts.  They were so consumed and perplexed that they didn’t even recognize him, which was exactly the way he wanted it.

And finally, when he did speak, they were mesmerized.  His words started a fire deep in their hearts.  It wasn’t until he broke the bread that their eyes were finally opened and saw that it was their beloved Jesus.  The one who had shared this same meal with them in the upper room, was back from the dead.  He was alive!

We have much to learn about the Risen Jesus as well.  We cannot be sure when or where or how me might show up.  We cannot control or determine or manipulate his comings and goings.  We are totally dependent on him.  We cannot see on our own, we cannot understand on our own, we cannot recognize him on our own.  We cannot figure it out on our own, we cannot make sense of it on our own, and we cannot make our own hearts burn within us.  All of this must be done for us by Jesus.  Life with Jesus is about absolute dependence and complete surrender.  His job is to come; our job is to wait.  For unless he comes and walks along with us, our eyes will never be opened.

Sunday, April 9, 2023

the easter shift

One of the many things we celebrate on Easter Sunday is our invitation into the risen life of Jesus.  This invitation involves a beautiful shift from constantly thinking about what must die in us, to the freedom to think about, and dream about, what wants to be (and is already being) born in us.  And after forty-plus days of Lent, it is a welcome relief.

Saturday, April 8, 2023

holy saturday

There’s a certain powerlessness to Holy Saturday that is really good for us.  We can’t produce or manufacture resurrection; we can’t hasten it, hurry it, or control it.  All we can do is wait for it.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

torn to pieces

Come, let us return to the Lord.  He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds.  After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence.” (Hosea 6:1-2)

There is a tearing to pieces that comes from love and results in healing and restoration.  It is a tender but severe tearing, a stripping away of all that binds and hinders and enslaves.  It is a tearing that feels like death, but is really life, because it involves the stripping away of all that is false, in order to leave only what is true and beautiful.  That’s the kind of tearing and injuring God does when we are courageous enough to return to him.  It is a tearing and an injuring that helps us become all that he dreamt us to be.  So when you find yourself in his crosshairs, do not be afraid.  What is happening to you might feel like death, but it is really life.  Ultimately, it is both good and beautiful.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

which one is lost

Jesus loved finding lost things, be it sheep or coins or even sons. (Luke 15:1-32) He always had a soft spot in his heart for those who had gotten a little turned around in their lives, which is a beautiful thing since all of us find ourselves in that position from time to time.  The problem is that sometimes it’s hard to identify the ones who are actually lost.  Oh, maybe not in terms of sheep and coins, those are fairly obvious, but when it comes to sons it’s an altogether different story.  In fact, the hardest ones to find are the ones who don’t think they are lost at all.

The younger son ventures off into a foreign land with his pockets full of inheritance money and his heart set on squandering it all on wild living.  But eventually it all catches up with him and he comes to his senses, finding his way back to the father’s house where he is greeted with hugs and kisses, as well as shoes and a ring and a feast.  Yet he is not the lost son; he is actually the found one.  There’s another son in the story who is in desperate need of being found, only he doesn’t know it.

The lost son is the one who is still in his father’s house, yet still so far from away from experiencing his father’s love and affection.  Just listen to what he says: “Look!  All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders.”  Does that sound like someone who knows he is loved, or like someone who is trying desperately to earn something he’s always had?  To me it sounds like someone who is working his ass off to try and win the approval and affection of a father who knows him better and loves him more fully than he could ever ask or imagine.

The younger brother returns home and is able to experience that love firsthand, but what about the older one?  He has been at home all along, but has somehow missed the unconditional love and affection the father was continually offering him.  What would it look like for him to return to the father? 

We are not really told how the story ends for the older brother, which is probably intentional.  It is an open invitation.  Each of us is invited into the story to make that decision for ourselves.  What does returning to the Father look like for you today?  Will you return to him? 

Saturday, March 11, 2023


there is an emptying
that comes from God

a profound deepening
meant to hollow out
space within you
that only he can fill

so do not be hasty to
grasp at the first thing
that comes along
in an effort to fill the void
lest you miss the gift
he is trying to give

that void might actually
be there for a reason

*Can't take full credit for this one.  It was inspired by some words my friend, Will, shared with me.  I really just put them on paper.  I pray that you have community like the incredible men God has given me to do life with.  They make me better each day.

Saturday, March 4, 2023

pass through

“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.  As they pass through the Valley of Weeping, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools.  They go from strength to strength until each appears before God in Zion.” (Psalm 84:5-7)

You can stay there, in the Valley of Weeping, if you want to, but it is only as you pass through the valley that you make it a place of springs.  Eventually you have to work your way through it, or you will be stuck in the Valley of Weeping forever.  It’s really up to you.  Avoiding or denying or refusing only assures that you will never pass through it and come out the other side.

This life is a pilgrimage; you must keep going in order to arrive at your glorious destination.  At some point you must leave the Valley of Weeping behind and press on to the land of promise.  So, pass through, don’t pitch your tent.  Don’t take up residence in such a miserable place.  Don’t set up shop; pass through.  The place of springs is only possible if you are willing to pass through.  Don’t let the Valley of Weeping hold you hostage; pass through.

O Lord, this life is such a pilgrimage, help me to always keep moving toward you no matter what.  Give me the strength and wisdom and perseverance, when I get stuck, to keep on walking, to keep pressing on toward you.  Give me faith when I need to believe, grace when I need to forgive, and courage when I need to let go.  Help me to go from strength to strength until I appear before you in Zion.  Amen. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2023


“Abide in me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches.  Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5)

The key to a fruitful life and ministry is not activism but abiding.  It is not incessant activity but prayer.  Unless we move from autonomy to obedience, from independence to dependence, and from control to surrender we can never hope to bear the fruit that Jesus designed us to bear—that only comes by abiding. 

And abiding is not as much about trying, as it is about joining.  It is being joined to the very life of God in a profoundly intimate way.  It is allowing the life of God to flow in and then through us.  Thus, it is not something we can produce or manufacture, but something that must be grown organically.

Lord Jesus, you are the vine, and we are the branches, never let us forget that.  Forgive us when we try to manufacture and produce what can only be grown by abiding in you.  Help us to learn how to do that.  Amen.

Friday, February 24, 2023

absolute surrender

“I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”  Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God.  Then he said to him, “Follow me!” (John 21:18-19)

There is a shift necessary if we truly want to follow Jesus.  It is a shift that’s as demanding as it is unavoidable.  It is the shift from autonomy to obedience, the shift from independence to dependence, the shift from clenched fists to outstretched hands, the shift from leading to being led.  It is ultimately the shift from control to absolute surrender.

That is the invitation of Lent, the season where we are invited by Jesus to “Come and die, that I might raise you to new life.”  Which makes the real question of the season: What needs to die in me in order for something beautiful to be born?

Lord, you know me better than I know myself.  Your Spirit pervades every moment of my life.  Thank you for the grace and love you shower on me.  Thank you for your constant, gentle invitation to let you into my life.  Forgive me for the times I have refused that invitation, and have closed myself off from you.  Help me in the day(s) to come, to recognize your presence in my life, to open myself to you, to let you work in me, to your greater glory.  Amen. ~St. Ignatius

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

ash wednesday 2023

ash wednesday is
about moving from
control to surrender
from clenched fists
to open hands

whenever you sense
the movement from
control to surrender
you can be quite sure
that the Spirit of God
is behind it

Jesus is not just inviting us
to let go of some things
he is asking us to let go
of everything

Thursday, February 16, 2023

the story i'm telling myself

“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32, ESV)

“Don’t let the false narratives keep you at their mercy.  The story you are telling yourself is rarely the story that’s actually true.”  That was the message from my time with Jesus this morning. 

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about false narratives, those I live by and those that I allow to hold me captive.  The lies I’ve bought into about myself, my world, and even my God, that make me the absolute worst version of myself.  They make me fearful and anxious and insecure.  They make me busy and driven and manipulative.  They call me to acquire and compare and compete.  They tell me I need to earn and achieve and perform, all in hopes of convincing myself and my world that I am actually worthy of being loved.  And until I realize that I am already loved, and therefore of infinite value and worth, I will never really be able to love anyone else.  I will be too busy trying to extort and manipulate love out of them. 

I don't know what your false narratives tell you, but mine tell me I am not enough—not talented enough, not gifted enough, not skilled enough, not smart enough, not attractive enough, etc.  And they tell me I suck: I suck as a writer, I suck as a worker, I suck as a son, I suck as a husband, I suck as a dad, I suck as a friend, I suck as a man, I suck as an everything.  

When I am believing these lies, they cause me to interpret everything in light them--which is actually oh so dark.  In turn, this causes me to create narratives for others that do not exist and assign motives that are simply not true, which just reinforces the lies I believe about myself and my world, only making them stronger.  It is a downward spiral that is impossible to pull out of unless Jesus--the way the truth and the life--intervenes.  When I let these voices control and consume me, my neediness and fear and insecurity rule the day.  It’s astounding, and more than a little baffling, that I give these voices the free rein that I do.

Then Jesus comes along and tells me the truth: “You are seen, you are known, and you are deeply loved.  You are of infinite value and worth and do not have to do anything to prove it.  You don’t have to do anything to justify your existence.  You don’t need others to give you your value and your identity because I have already done that.  Let my love be the basis and foundation for everything you do.  Don’t let the false narratives hold you hostage, I came to tell you the truth.  Abide in my word and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.  For if you are not free, it means that you are believing something that is not true.  So stop listening to the lies and start believing the truth.”

Lord Jesus, save me from myself.  Let your love and your grace and your truth define and determine me.  Free me from the lies I believe about you, about myself, and about others, and help me to constantly abide in your truth.  Amen.


Monday, February 13, 2023

treasure me

“One thing you lack.  Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have a treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21)

One thing you lack.  In fact, the very first one.  The first commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me.”  I must be your one thing.  I must be your treasure.  Let go of whatever you treasure most, in order to treasure me above all else.  Whatever the currency of your life is, whatever (or whoever) occupies that first place, let it go and follow me.  There is no other way to the life you seek.  Treasure me.

Thursday, February 9, 2023


“But now you are being asked to let go of all these self-made props and trust that God is enough for you.“ ~Henri Nouwen

What does it really mean that God is enough for me? It means I can stop living for the attention, admiration, adoration, and affirmation of others. It means that I can stop trying so hard to please and perform and impress, and just rest in the love and affection and enough-ness of God. It means that even if no one ever calls or asks or invites, even if no one ever buys or reads another of my books, it’s okay. God alone is enough for me. It means that I am finally free.

Sunday, February 5, 2023


1 cor 2:16

when i have
the mind of Christ
i think what he thinks
i see what he sees
i say what he says
i do what he does
i love what he loves

Lord have mercy
i have so much
further to go

Friday, February 3, 2023

waiting, not limbo

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.  My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.” (Psalm 130:5-6) 

I think I have always thought of waiting as being in limbo, when that’s not what waiting is at all.  Waiting is an invitation into transformation.  If I can make that leap in my mind, I can learn to embrace waiting—and the transformation it brings—rather than resisting it.  As long as I continue to view waiting as some sort of limbo, I will always feel stuck in some way, rather than freed.  But if I can begin to see waiting as the vehicle through which genuine transformation takes place, I will be more likely to enter into the space it offers.  Then I can come to see that I am not waiting for transformation; waiting is transformation.

Help me to learn how to wait for you, O Lord, and not just my desired outcome.  Give me the surety that something beautiful is happening in the waiting, even if I cannot yet see or perceive it. 

Sunday, January 29, 2023

first love

“I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance.  You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.  Yet I hold this against you: You have left your first love.” (Rev. 2:2-4)

“You have substituted busyness for intimacy.  You have confused being busy for me, with being in love with me, and that makes me really sad.”

Sing your song of love deeply and tenderly into my heart and soul this day, O Lord.  Draw me into your divine embrace and seize me with the power of your great affection.  Lord Jesus, may you always be my first love; may you always be my first and truest affection.  May my life always be an overflow of your divine love.  Amen.